Loyola High: Give The Class of 2020 A Pass/Fail Final Semester

Loyola High: Give The Class of 2020 A Pass/Fail Final Semester

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John Choi started this petition to President Rev. Gregory M. Goethals and

As I am sure you know, students and staff are facing immense stress during these unprecedented times. The combination of being unable to interact with peers at a normal capacity, staying in our homes, and adjusting to a consistently evolving situation around COVID-19 is adding extra stress to the burden that schoolwork already represents in our lives.

With this in mind, I am writing to ask that you consider adopting a pass/fail system for grading this semester, specifically for seniors. Though students are devoting hours of their days to our schoolwork, we are not being provided the same opportunities to change or maintain our grades.

Students in our school are known to be academically-oriented, motivated, and driven. Even so, many of us, especially those with unique learning styles, are struggling to focus while lacking our normal classroom environment. Additionally, the distance learning plan presents various challenges to students and teachers alike, and we are all doing our best to adjust. Distance learning is an entirely new concept that most teachers are not properly equipped to deal with and this contributes to added stress for both the educator and pupil.

It is obvious that teachers will not be administering as many tests or exams if any at all, due to lack of resources and fear that students will not be academically honest. For many students, this inhibits the ability to raise grades. Instead, teachers are opting to count the work we do in lesser-valued categories, such as classwork or homework. Homework, in most classes, is worth about 10% in every class. Without the extra weight that assessments hold in the grade book, it is virtually impossible to change our grades.

Students were counting on having all the time left in the semester to raise their test averages in order to achieve a higher grade in the course. Though still unsure of when we will eventually get back to school, we have lost a significant amount of time that would have been spent taking assessments to raise our grades. Without tests being offered, this is virtually impossible. Students with a 79 or 89 percent have almost no chance to raise their grade due to the strain that distance learning forces upon our educational environment. Some teachers at Loyola have explicitly told students they will not be offering tests for fear of academic dishonesty.

The pass/fail policy is already being implemented by multiple universities and education systems throughout the country. The President of Duke University opted to switch to pass/fail, saying that “We expect that this strategy will ease the necessary transitions into remote course delivery and promote strong engagement." In addition to the reasons listed above, students from various socioeconomic backgrounds face additional challenges. Loyola students who have jobs at grocery stores, for example, are being scheduled for far more hours due to panic-buying. Some students are now scheduled to work over 30 hours a week and are struggling to balance the stress that comes with the uncertainty of distance learning. On the other side, students at Loyola with jobs to support their families in the fast-food industry or service industry suddenly had a stream of revenue disconnected in a matter of days. All of this is to say, stress is increasing among the student body at an exponential rate.

According to Harvard Professor Allison Stanger, “Changing all courses to pass/fail and adding an asterisk to everyone’s transcript would eliminate any problems with fairness while allowing students and faculty to focus on creating a meaningful learning experience in anxious times.” She also advocates that this will increase academic honesty at a time when students are more easily able to gain access to resources not usually permitted.

With the shifting of graduation towards an online-structure today, the class of 2020, due to Covid-19, has officially been robbed of one of the most sacred and intimate memories of our high-school experience. It has been what we were working towards, and say 3 generations of Loyola seniors before us graduate with their Cub Brothers. It's time for Loyola to give seniors an academic stress-reliever, as these times are irrefutably, astronomically, stressful. It's an easy change for Loyola to make that would make our senior year marginally better, or at minimum make the transition into an uncertain summer and fall semester of college easier on the heart and mind.

We already have no offical finals week, and little to no exams in classes. I understand why the class of 2021 would be uneasy to transition into a period of pass/fail due to the importance of their junior year GPA. Seniors, on the other hand, have already been told by their colleges that their grades will be viewed lightly, and that as long as they graduate, there will likely be no qualms with threats of rescission from the school itself.

Switching to a pass/fail grading system will allow students to focus on the material, rather than simply completing busywork to get a satisfactory grade. Instead of focusing on getting full points and hastily completing assignments, students will have the space to try new techniques, experiment with the distance learning system, and overall, be less stressed. I hope you consider this proposal, and thank you for your time.

 

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